He’s suddenly become part of the British tennis consciousness. But it’s been a long time coming.
Cameron Norrie’s path as a junior was slightly muddled. He was born in South Africa to British parents, but initially represented New Zealand after his family moved out there. At the age of 16 he switched to Great Britain, taking up a spot at the National Tennis Centre in London.
From that point, there is a well-trodden path. LTA funding, reasonable success at junior level, a steady transition to the pro circuit, a solid top 100 ranking.
But Cam Norrie went off-script – he chose to go to America. To study.
He said he wanted a “more balanced lifestyle”, having his life revolve around tennis had made him fall out of love with the sport. And in America he would still play a lot, at a very good level, but he would have other things in his life, as he pursued a sociology degree.
It’s bold – to move outside your comfort zone, to alter your expectations by removing yourself from the warm embrace of the LTA and throwing yourself into the fiercely competitive American collegiate league. But it worked. Norrie quickly became the number one college player in the US. He got into the habit of winning.
And that’s why he didn’t have to wait long for his first ATP tour win. He turned pro in June 2017. Later that month, at the Eastbourne International, he beat world number 49 Horacio Zeballos. And it was only eight months later that he battled back from two sets down for his biggest win to date: a Davis Cup victory over world number 23 Roberto Bautista-Agut.
There have been many near misses for British players over the years. It may well be the same for Cam Norrie. But he’s built a life for himself outside of tennis. He can return to Texas Christian University, finish his degree, and get on with a ‘normal’ life if that’s what he wants to do. He’s taken the pressure off himself before he’s even got going.
It wouldn’t suit everyone, and there should never be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to sport – but I admire Cam Norrie for doing it his own way. And if more British junior looked up and saw that there is a world outside tennis, I don’t think it would do us much harm.